March 5, 2021

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Australia’s Digital Identity System gets more approval

According to the Digital Transformation Agency, Australian federal and state government agencies were almost unanimous in their agreement that the proposed Digital Identity System has potentially significant value for the nation.

The Australian Government is looking to deploy its Digital Identity System – a program that will allow more services to be available to people and businesses online at any time. A secure Digital Identity replaces the need for multiple logins across a range of government services, making getting things done with the government easier and faster. Creating and using a Digital Identity is voluntary and a personal choice. People can still access government services in other ways, such as on the phone or in-person at a government shopfront.

The Digital Identity aims to provides Australian people and businesses with a single, secure way to access government and other services online. The Digital Identity system includes everything from the policy and processes governing the system, to the technology and systems that allow it to work.

Image credit: www.dta.gov.au/our-projects/digital-identity/digital-identity-system

The DTA is managing this whole-of-government program, delivering it in partnership with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Services Australia, Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The system will expand over time to include more government agencies and private sector organisations.

In a recent report expanding on the feedback received from a consultation conducted by the agency into the proposed expansion of the Digital Identity System, the DTA said they found “near-uniform agreement on the immense value of the Digital Identity System, and the need for legislation to govern the system”. Feedback centred on key issues including governance of the system as well as the liability framework that would govern when a participant is liable for losses suffered by another and must compensate them.

Replies from the consultation showed that participants’ consensus on the need for legislation to govern the digital identity system. Submissions suggested a strong interest in the design of the proposed Oversight Authority and its functions. Participants all agreed that a clear and fair liability framework would be important. However, private-sector entities involved in the consultation were inclined to support a limited or no liability approach while individuals supported a more thorough liability regime. This was more evident particularly in circumstances where an entity had complied with the legislation.

The report revealed that stakeholders were, for the most part, looking for more information on proposals to charge public or private sector organisations for joining or accessing services through the Digital Identity System. Private sector organisations emphasised the need for a market-based pricing approach that would encourage competition while government and consumer advocates stressed the need for the Digital Identity System to be free or low-cost for users – with the idea that this strategy would promote inclusion.

It was noted that the received input underscored the need for robust privacy and consumer safeguards to be built into the system, endorsing the additional privacy safeguards proposed by the DTA. The submissions also confirmed overwhelming support for the idea that the Commonwealth’s Digital Identity System should be voluntary. A majority of respondents also indicated that the new consumer protections afforded by the system should not conflict with or create a system parallel to existing laws, in particular the Privacy Act 1988. State governments were meanwhile interested in how the legislation would harmonise with their local legislation.

The DTA now plans to consider feedback from the consultation and develop a position paper that will be sent for a second round of consultations. Development of the draft legislation will follow.

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